Famously considered as the “Capital of the 19thCentury” by Walter Benjamin, Paris could be considered by 1900 a “finished” city, i.e. a complete and completed work of art. Yet, strategies of structural and aesthetic modernization recast profoundly the city’s shape and Parisian visual culture in the first half of the 20th century and contributed to a new age of creativity.
Between the two world wars, boosted by the 1918 victory, and at the apex of the country’s colonial expansion, Paris became a laboratory of modern culture. New visual and spatial strategies emerged, based on the achievements of industry and using the resources of the luxury crafts. Programs addressed the expectations of the elites and responded in part to the aspiration of the popular classes, in a tense political context marked by the conflict between the conservative and the left, which found in 1936 in the Popular Front its turning point.
Architecture, interior design and urban planning went through major changes during these two decades, fostering intense relationships with a conflict-ridden political scene, as well as with the automobile and airplane industry, where Taylorism and Fordism thrived. Both cinema and fashion revealed the aspirations of the new urban bourgeoisie, shaping the stage for modern dreams.
If Le Corbusier became the most provocative theorist and designer, the broader architectural scene saw major works produced by figures drawn towards the modernization of classical principles, such as Auguste Perret, or by radical functionalists, who challenged the very notion of buildings, such as Marcel Lods and Jean Prouvé, who paved the way to the next wave of industrially-driven creativity after 1945.
Lecture：Modern Architecture in Paris, 1918-1940
Trained as an architect and an historian, Jean-Louis Cohen holds since 1994 the Sheldon H. Solow Chair for the History of Architecture at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. In 2014 he has been given the first chair for architecture at the Collège de France.His research has focused on the French, German and Soviet architectural avant-gardes, on colonial situations and on Paris planning history. He has published more than thirty books, including: France, Modern Architectures in History (2015),Le Corbusier: an Atlas of Modern Landscapes (2013), The Future of Architecture. Since 1889 (2012), Architecture in Uniform (2011), Mies van der Rohe (2007), Casablanca (2002), and Le Corbusier and the Mystique of the USSR (1992). Among the numerous exhibitions he has curated feature the centennial show “L'aventure Le Corbusier” (1987), at the Centre Georges Pompidou; “Scenes of the World to Come,” and “Architecture in Uniform at the Canadian Center for Architecture (1995 and 2011); “Interférences / Interferenzen – Architecture, Allemagne, France”, at the Musées de Strasbourg (2013); “Le Corbusier: an Atlas of Modern Landscapes,” at the Museum of Modern Art (2007). In 2018, he has curated wihPippoCiorra the exhibition Zevi’s Architects at Rome’s MAXXI. He received in 2014 the special mention of the jury for his French pavilion at the Venice Biennale.